The Beaumont – Port Arthur area is in the grip of a life-threatening flood emergency as Tropical Storm Harvey continues to dump rain near the Texas-Louisiana border.
Port Arthur Mayor Derrick Freeman said almost 100 percent of the 20,000 homes in Port Arthur have some type of water in them. He had 3 and a half feet of water inside his own home Wednesday morning when he promised neighbors that help was on the way.
“It’s a lot of water and we’re trying to get to higher ground. You could put a couple chairs on another chair on a first floor. We’re going to get to you. We promise,” he said. “Some folks we've picked up, they have water that is ankle high. Of course, their life is important to us but we want to try to get to people who have 4 to 5 feet of water in their homes.”
One of the most heart-breaking scenes of the day was at the Lake Arthur Nursing Home. People in wheelchairs and hospital beds were waiting in rising waters for someone to show up.
“It’s awful,” one nurse said. “This is my first time ever seeing this before. I’m 65 years old, and I’ve never seen this much water.”
The facility for the elderly and disabled became an island. It was cut off after 45 inches of rain that’s dropped in Beaumont and Port Arthur since Tuesday.
“We are going to cross the bridge with the people that are somewhat critical here,” explained Port Arthur Police Officer Michael Hebert. “There is no way in or out of this facility unless it’s a boat. Air is not possible. Vehicle is not possible.”
More than 100 residents diminished in health depended on others for help as they sat in flood waters.
“Some of these nurses have said that these patients were in the water for up to 24 hours,” Officer Hebert explained. “Myself and another officer was flagged down while we were doing high water rescues, and we were told there was a critical incident at this facility.”
Volunteers with boats showed up to help Port Arthur police and National Guard save the senior citizens.
“Our volunteer flotilla is trying to get them to a certain area where either loved ones are there waiting or we have EMS vehicles there to transport them to our local facilities,” the officer said.
A man with an oxygen tank wore a shirt that proclaimed, ‘Not Today Satan.’
One of the volunteers wore a sweatshirt with what could be an appropriate message to the storm — ‘Not Today Satan.’
FOX’s Matt Finn saw boat loads of families with elderly people, pets and children were rescued in Port Arthur, which is 20 miles south of Beaumont. They sat and waited in the soaking rain for either a truck or someone to pick them up. Many of the children had no shoes on and were shaking, shivering and crying.
Residents were plucked from an apartment complex where the thigh-high water was rising fast. Others stood outside their second-floor apartments waiting for help to come.
The Bowers Civic Center, which had opened as a shelter for evacuees, started filling with water. The people there had to move to three other locations. Cots and belongings were abandoned on the civic center floor.
Motiva Enterprise, which is the largest refinery in the nation, also closed because of the floodwaters inundating the area.
In nearby Beaumont, a father tried to calm a crying baby that was wrapped in a trash bag. The family was just one of many being rescued by Texans pressing their boats into humanitarian service.
Police there said a 3-year-old girl was found clinging to the body of her drowned mother Wednesday morning. The woman’s vehicle got stuck in a flooded parking lot of an office park just off Interstate 10.
A witness saw her take her daughter and try to walk to safety but the swift current of a flooded drainage canal swept them both away. The girl was holding onto the floating woman’s body when a police and fire-rescue team in a boat caught up to them a half a mile downstream.
Police said the little girl suffered hypothermia but should be released from the hospital soon. Her mother has been identified as Colette Sulcer.
Rescues have been difficult in the two cities because most of the major roads in and out are flooded.
FOX4’s Brandon Todd was in in Kountze, Texas, which is located north of Beaumont. Highway 287 SB was impassable trying to get down into Beaumont.
A police officer was blocking the roadway to make sure nothing got through, except by boat. Dozens of trucks were lined up at the blockade with their trailers launching boats into the water in attempts to make rescues.
For three straight days, a group of men have been using a fishing boat to rescue people from the floodwaters of Harvey.
“We've been through some amazing neighborhoods homes, with water halfway up to the first or second floor and all the cars in the front driveway,” one of the rescuers said. “So I don't know if it all came in the middle of the night or what -- it's horrific.”
The rescuers took FOX4 into a small town 20 miles north of Beaumont where only the tops of homes were visible. The homes were flooded by a rain-swollen cypress creek. The images were similar to what is happening in Port Arthur, Beaumont and small communities just a few miles away.